Friday, July 13, 2012
One good reason: Virginia
By ESPN.com staff
This series gives one good reason why each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order, and the Cavaliers are up next.
The series continues today with one good reason why …
Virginia will win the Coastal Division. Knowledge of the system. After two full years under coach Mike London, the players are now much more knowledgeable about his 4-3 defense and understand the pro style philosophies of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. There hasn’t been any staff turnover, and London said the continuity made for a much smoother spring. Virginia finally has a dependable starting quarterback in Michael Rocco (although he will be challenged by Alabama transfer Phillip Sims this fall), and the Hoos are coming off their best record and first bowl appearance since 2007. Last year’s surprising success, which included a shot at the Coastal Division title against rival Virginia Tech, was something the Hoos could learn from and build upon.
Why it won’t: Too much talent and experience was lost on defense. A total of seven starters from 2011 who combined for 221 career starts are gone. Only four starters return, and three starters have to be replaced in the secondary and on the defensive line. The linebackers should be an area of strength, but the defensive backs are a major question mark. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is now the veteran of the group. The secondary lost more than 90 career starts from the other three starters, including standout corner Chase Minnifield. Virginia's offense threw for more than 400 yards in the spring game, revealing some weaknesses in the secondary that must be addressed during fall camp.
More in this series